1 In 4 Children Under 6 Own A Smartphone. Is That Ok?

Are smartphones taking over childhood?

Another crazy child technology statistic came out this week. A survey from Music Magpie this week showed that 1 in 4 children under the age of 6 owns a smartphone. Almost half of those that do spend more than 20 hrs per week on it.

While my first reaction, is the intended one of shock I have recently reappraised my view of technology. I have decided that it needs to be an important part of my children’s lives.

Both as a parent and at work (where we constantly celebrate the joys of the great outdoors) I spend my time championing the counter culture to the one eyed babysitter (more commonly known as an iPad or smartphone). At home I have pretty strict rules. My children watch at most 15 minutes telly about twice a week and one movie at the weekend. We do have one ‘crack screened’ Family iPad that is fiercely rationed. None of them own a smartphone. This policy has never changed and remained basically easy to enforce and unchallenged until now. Next month my daughter turns 11 years old. I have started to worry that I am limiting her education. I am worried I am limiting her potential. I am blocking her chance to understand coding and the multitude of brilliant and inventive digital games and apps available.

Discovering Technology

My eyes were really opened to this when bout 6 months ago my daughter and I went to the brilliant Tech Talk organised by Ana Potter. As Ana cited 65% of school children will have jobs that don’t exist yet and we need to prepare our children for their exciting, unknown future. At the Tech Talk we spent a day being wowed by the thrilling and mind blowing ways technology is being used to change the world from the Hyperloop to the brilliant Bethany from Tech Will Save Us. I left feeling certain that I had not been giving my children enough exposure to the digital age at its best. I would, like most parents, love my daughter to dream of being an aspiring scientist or inventor. At the moment she flips between wanting to be an origamist, secret agent or in her heart of hearts unicorn. However I was not encouraging at home to embrace the pursuits that could lead to technical or scientific professions.

Since then my new belief is that embracing technology for children is a brilliant thing to do when the technology is about engagement. Where tech leads to exciting thinking and challenging innovation it couldn’t be better. However the passive entertainment of screens should still be balanced with plenty of opportunities to graze knees, climb trees, roll down hills and set out on giant walks.

So, as far as I am concerned, SmartPhones at such a young age is not a good thing. Particularly where it removes chidlren’s chances to get outdoors and think and get bored and then use their imagination. However my puritanical rejection of the digital generation has equally been limiting and narrow minded and does need changing.